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Lausitz - Leber, Titus (23/25)
Lebensmitteluntersuchungsanstalten Lebensversicherung


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Food stamps from 1915

Food Supply, under normal circumstances food supply is governed by the market, while it is controlled by provincial and federal authorities in times of crisis. Up to the 20th century self-sufficiency prevailed in the countryside and small towns were largely self-sufficient. Laws designed to guarantee sufficient food supply soon constituted part of the statutes of larger towns (e.g. provisions prohibiting the purchase of agricultural products directly from the producer). From the reign of Friedrich III certain areas were reserved (by "dedications") for agricultural production in mining areas in order to guarantee food supply. This practice was abolished during the reign of Joseph II. In order to guarantee uniform price levels, price regulations were established by the authorities, especially in towns. Nevertheless sharp increases in prices, as well as famines, occurred in the pre-industrial era (e.g. 1770-1773). The growth of towns and industrialisation gave rise to new aspects of food supply in the 19th century. New institutions (large market halls, slaughter-houses, cold-storage depots) were necessary to guarantee food supply. New types of retail trade replaced old markets. Cereal, flour and beef cattle were increasingly imported from Hungary to supply big towns. During World War I the importance of food supply increased dramatically because important cereal cultivation areas (Galicia, Bukovina) were at the same time theatres of war and therefore could not supply food for Austrian towns. Hungary supplied the army with bread but provided only a very small amount for the use of the civil population in Austria. The "Kriegsgetreide-Verkehrsanstalt" (Wartime cereal supply management agency) was founded to ensure the supply of basic foods; food ration cards were distributed from 1915 onwards, but the difficulties in supplying the agreed amount of food increased steadily. The disastrous food supply was one reason for the breakdown of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose war economy management began to deteriorate in the summer of 1918. When the monarchy fell apart, the situation became drastically worse because the individual provinces shut themselves off from one another - the danger of famine was imminent during the winters of 1918/1919 and 1919/1920, especially in the towns, and was only prevented by food deliveries by the Allies. In order to prevent a revolution, food prices were regulated by the government, which was one of the causes for high inflation in the post-war period. Only from 1921/1922 onwards did food supply normalise. World War II was carefully planned by the National-Socialist regime, as can be seen from the fact that food ration cards were already being distributed by the end of August 1939. Food allocations to average consumers decreased by 1944 to about 2,000 calories a day (in 1937 average calorie consumption in Austria had been 3,200 calories). After the end of the war food supply decreased even further, especially in Vienna, where it was down to 350 calories in May 1945. By summer 1945 it had increased to 1,000 calories and in 1946 it amounted to up to 1,220 calories a day. The crisis persisted in 1947 (especially in winter 1947/48). Subsequently, however, the official cost of living and black market prices tended to converge, and in the first months of 1950, black markets disappeared completely. Food supply has since then been governed by market economy principles, even though some regulations in the form of subsidies for agriculture were sustained until 1994. The share of food in the total amount of the cost of living has decreased slowly but steadily in the 20th century: an average household spent 59 % of the family income on food, beverages and tobacco from 1912-1914, in 1935 the share was 53.7 %, in 1970 32 % and in 1989 24.4 %.

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Food ration coupons from Klagenfurt, 1915

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